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Eleusis

or Eleusin (Ἐλευσίς, Ἐλευσίν).


1.

An ancient city of Boeotia, which stood, according to tradition, near Copae and the Lake Copaïs, and was, together with another ancient city, named Athenae, inundated by the waters of that lake. Stephanus of Byzantium reports that when Crates drained the waters which had overspread the plains the city of Athenae became visible (s. v. Ἀθῆναι).


2.

A city of Attica, equidistant from Megara and the Piraeus, and famed for the celebration of the mysteries of Demeter. According to some writers it derived its name from a hero, whom some affirmed to be the son of Hermes but others of Ogyges (Pausan. i. 38). Its origin is certainly of the highest antiquity, as it appears to have already existed in the time of Cecrops, but we are not informed by whom, or at what period, the worship of Demeter was introduced there. Eusebius places the building of the first temple in the reign of Pandion; but, according to other authors, it is more ancient. Celeus is said to have been king of Eleusis when Demeter first arrived there. See Eleusinia.

At one period Eleusis was powerful enough to contend with Athens for the sovereignty of Attica. This was in the time of Eumolpus. The controversy was ended by a treaty, wherein it was stipulated that Eleusis should yield to the control of Athens, but that the sacred rites of Demeter should be celebrated at the former city. Demeter and Triptolemus were both worshipped here with peculiar solemnity, and here also was shown the Rarius Campus, where Demeter was said to have first sown corn (Pausan. i. 38). The temple of Eleusis was burned by the Persian army in the in vasion of Attica (Herod.ix. 65), but was rebuilt, under the administration of Pericles, by Ictinus, the architect of the Parthenon (Pericles). This magnificent structure was entirely destroyed by Alaric in the year A.D. 396. Eleusis, though so considerable and important a place, was classed among the Attic demes and belonged to the tribe Hippothoöntis. The colossal statue of the Eleusinian Demeter, the work of Phidias, after having suffered many mutilations, was taken to England by Dr. Clarke and Mr. Cripps in 1801, and now stands in the vestibule of the University Library at Cambridge. The temple itself was cleared by Sir William Gell, and important excavations have been made by the Greek Archaeological Society since 1887.

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